To elucidate the role of growth hormone (GH)-releasing hormone (GRH) and somatostatin (SRIH) in the regulation of the growth hormone (GH) secretory pattern, we collected portal blood from five unanesthetized ovariectomized ewes for repeated measurements of GRH and SRIH simultaneous with those of peripheral GH. Hormones were measured at 10-min intervals for 5.5 h and their interrelationships analyzed. Mean portal GRH was 20.4 +/- 6.7 (SD) pg/ml and the estimated overall secretion rate was 13 pg/min. GRH secretion was pulsatile with peaks of 25-40 pg/ml and a mean pulse interval of 71 min. Mean portal SRIH was 72 +/- 33 pg/ml and the estimated overall secretion rate was 32 pg/min. SRIH secretion was also pulsatile with peaks of 65-160 pg/ml and a mean pulse interval of 54 min. The GH pulse interval was 62 min. A significant association was present between GRH and GH secretory peaks though not between GRH and SRIH or SRIH and GH. Insulin hypoglycemia resulted in a rapid and brief stimulation of SRIH secretion followed by a decline in GH levels. No effect was observed on GRH secretion until 90 min, when a slight increase occurred. The results suggest (a) the presence of an independent neural rhythmicity of GRH and SRIH secretion with a primary role of GRH in determining pulsatile GRH secretion, and (b) that the inhibitory effects of insulin hypoglycemia on GH in this species are attributable to a combination of enhanced SRIH secretion and possibly other factors, though without significant inhibition of GRH.